Updated: Sep 3
"Complicated grief" is what we call it. And its roots run deep, long before when Patryk actually died on Thanksgiving Day almost two years ago. We struggled for years because of his unhealthy relationship with alcohol. For me it was mostly in silence, and him, often under the guise of just having too much fun. For him to die from an accidental Fentanyl overdose, it was just so unbelievable yet not surprising at all.
When Patryk died, I remember telling myself right away, "I can't do this. No fucking way." I immediately felt terror, panic and such deep sadness. My son had recently turned 2 and my heart was just broken for the two of them.
Without really thinking about it, I think I leaned into these feelings. Hard. I gave in to the grief. And perhaps it enabled me to open myself up to asking for support, to accepting help from a community who rallied for our family, to seeking open and honest connections in my relationships. What it also enabled me to do was to start facing the scariness of being on my own. Of suddenly turning my attention and awareness to myself, and what I needed. Without the panic around the needs of my partner. Or our behaviours related to alcohol. No longer the anxiety of a relationship fraught with insecurity and instability. And then, almost too quickly, feelings of relief, peace and hope, were introduced into the tangled mess.
I continue to do as much learning as unlearning of life practices, habits and patterns. I wonder all the time if I would have been a better partner, if I had been then as I am today. And the longing I feel is for a life we'll never have now that he's gone, as well as the life we never had while he was alive. My heart was blown wide open. But it's created space for new love and new energy. I'll carry this grief with me for the rest of my life. And yes, it's complicated.
ABOUT EMILY D for CHANGE
EmilyD4Change celebrates people's stories and provides a window for people to share their personal experiences. It's about the unsung heroes who are left behind, the caregivers, the support people.
As a photographer Emily has had the honour of photographing key life stages - the joy of birth and the anguish of a persons final hours. Her understanding of the depths of love and the pain of loss expanded after those experiences. Instead of focusing only on what was lost, Emily learned that in many cases the people left behind want to focus on what was and what was gained from loving.
EmilyD4Change invites people to share their stories of love and love lost. Through stories and images, EmilyD4Change brings seemingly ordinary people forward to showcase how extraordinary they are, bravely facing loss and demonstrating the strength and remarkability of the human spirit. Each story is unedited and shared based on what the survivor wants you, the reader, to know.
by Emily Doukogiannis
Emily Doukogiannis is a Toronto-based portrait photographer, expert storyteller and compulsive photo book maker. Her commitment to telling people's stories is something Emily does in her spare time via Emily D 4 Change and countless media outlets.
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